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MUSIC NEWS: Florence and the Machine, Jay Brannan, Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright, Westlife, Modeselektor, Jessica 6

Florence-and-the-machine

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

Florence+TheMachine_CeremonialsFlorence and The Machine Ceremonials (Island)

The second album by Florence and the Machine is anything but a retreat: On Ceremonials, Florence Welch sacks subtlety for the kind of epic grandeur we normally associate with prog-rock or '70s AOR — the most significant difference being its sheer lack of pretentiousness and Welch's uncanny ability to transcend her own creation. In other words, despite the larger-than-life instrumentation and broad musical strokes, this album is clearly the vehicle of a vocalist. It's all an incredible balancing act, of course, and Adele producer Paul Epworth does his best to reign it in and keep it focused. Sometimes, the tension is almost inconceivable — "Never Let Me Go" is like the nonexistent lost collaboration between Sarah McLachlan and Siouxsie and the Banshees, while "What the Water Gave Me" sounds like Trentemøller got his hands on a PJ Harvey song — but when the elements come together for songs like "Shake It Out," you're almost shaken out of the experience of listening to an album and actually drawn inside of it. Ceremonials is more than simply expansive; it's inclusive.

Also out today: Darren Hayes — Secret Codes and Battleships (EMI Import), The Decemberists — Long Live the King (Capitol), Radio Slave — Works + Selected Remixes 2006-2010 (Rekids), Susan Boyle — Someone to Watch Over Me (Columbia)

THE DISPATCH:

JaybrannanRoad The long-awaited sophomore album from Jay Brannan has been given an early 2012 release date, and our first taste of the record is a song called "Greatest Hits" — which is streaming on Soundcloud and available on iTunes now. The as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2008's Goddamned features production by David Kahne, who has worked on records by Paul McCartney, The Strokes, k.d lang, and Kelly Clarkson to name a few.

Road The first posthumous album by Amy Winehouse is set to be released on December 5. Lioness: Hidden Treasures will feature 12 tracks including unreleased music, alternate versions, two new songs, and covers of material by Leon Russell and the Shirelles.

WainwrightsRoad The McGarrigle-Wainwright annual family Christmas show went on a two-year hiatus when Rufus Wainwright's mother, Kate McGarrigle, became ill and eventually succumbed to cancer in 2010, but the show is coming back for two nights in December. Also on Rufus Wainwright's docket: a new album with Mark Ronson producing and the Dap-Kings as his backing band. "I'm making an actual pop record," he says. "It's been a while since I've done that."

Road R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on the future of Michael Stipe: "I don't think that [music] is where his passion lies. I think he wants to be in the visual arts. I imagine Michael will do a lot of sculpture and photography. I think those are his big interests now."

Road Patrick Wolf recently recorded a live set for SHOWStudio's Café Concert Series in London. High-quality video from the concert is streaming online now.

The-goodnaturedRoad If you have yet to familiarize yourself with The Good Natured, do yourself a favor: The band — featuring 20-year-old singer/songwriter (and charismatic ingénue) Sarah McIntosh — releases the Skeleton EP this week and set out on their first American tour early next year. The new record is streaming on Soundcloud now, and features the irrepressible "Wolves" — produced by current Charli XCX producer and "Dancing On My Own" co-writer Patrik Berger.

Road Adele has been forced to cancel all of her remaining scheduled appearances in 2011 due to a vocal cord hemorrhage that has driven doctors to recommend throat surgery. "I have absolutely no choice but to recuperate properly and fully," the singer says, "or I risk damaging my voice forever."

SOUND & VISION:

Westlife — "Lighthouse"

Despite selling 44 million albums over their 14-year career, Westlife have always been somewhat of an easy mark in the English boy-band canon, but I've always liked them — and the fact that Mark Feehily has spent the last six years in the group as an openly gay singer in a female-dominated market speaks to their indifference to the capitalist boy-band stereotype. The group's forthcoming Greatest Hits collection will be Westlife's final album, and "Lighthouse" — written by Take That's Gary Barlow — is its lead single.

Modeselektor — "Shipwreck" (feat. Thom Yorke)

No one is making tuneful abstract techno like Modeselektor these days, and on their newest album, Monkeytown, the German duo has once again commanded the attention of Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who already provided vocals for their 2007 single "The White Flash." With "Shipwreck," the band invokes classic Aphex Twin while Yorke weaves his trademark falsetto in and out of the dense rhythm. It's not easy listening, but it sits right up there with anything from The King of Limbs.

Martin Solveig & Dragonette — "Big in Japan"

He's been confirmed as one of a handful of producers working on Madonna's new album, but until we get to hear those results, there's this: Martin Solveig teams up with Canadian trio Dragonette for the fourth single from his latest album, Smash, and another brazen round of broad-gestured, big-room French house.

Jessica 6 — "Prisoner of Love" (feat. Antony)

Former Hercules & Love Affair singer Nomi Ruiz formed Jessica 6 in 2008, but the band truly arrived earlier this year with the release of See The Light — an album whose flirtations with disco, R&B, and classic house reveal a sophisticated relationship with genre that leaves plenty of room for charismatic singularity. Antony Hegarty's guest turn on "Prisoner of Love" is only meant to remind you that even disco sings the blues.



MUSIC NEWS: Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Levine, Everything But The Girl, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, Justin Timberlake, Stars

Coldplay2-SarahLee

BY NORMAN BRANNON

Guestblogger Norman Brannon is a pop critic, musician, and author based in New York City. He presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad and writes regularly at Nervous Acid.  

Follow Norman on Twitter at @nervousacid.

EXTENDED PLAY:

This week is a bit of double feature, in which two high profile releases vie for your attention and everyone's publicity department is on overdrive trying to steer the conversation. Here's an attempt to separate the signal from the noise:

Coldplay — Mylo Xyloto (EMI) MyloXyloto_lores

THEIR PUBLICIST SAYS: "Just as the album art was inspired by the work of New York graffiti artists of the 1970s, Mylo Xyloto takes its cue from the sense of freedom those artists embodied."

THE OBJECTIVE TAKE: That's a stretch considering that '70s graffiti artists in New York were largely poor and disenfranchised people expressing themselves using an untraditional canvas and Coldplay are, like, the biggest (and one of the richest) rock bands in the world using guitars and keyboards. So, OK! Hyperbole aside, the band does take some risks here — a duet with Rihanna actually sounds conventional next to the new-wave-Bruce-Springsteen vibe of "Hurts Like Heaven" — and Mylo Xyloto is unlikely to kick them off their rock star perch this time around: It's a textured, satisfying, and melodically able album, and despite the attempts of adult contemporary songwriters everywhere, no one does Coldplay quite like Coldplay.

START WITH: "Hurts Like Heaven" / "Charlie Brown"

Kelly_Clarkson_-_StrongerKelly ClarksonStronger (19/RCA)

HER PUBLICIST SAYS: "The album is filled with candid, emotionally raw tunes like … 'You Love Me' (in which Clarkson witheringly tells an ex 'you’re not good enough'), 'Einstein' (the cad in question is dismissed with 'Here’s your keys, your bags, your clothes, and now get out of my place'), and the title track, which finds Clarkson putting a fresh spin on Nietzsche’s adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger."

THE OBJECTIVE TAKE: Saying that "Stronger" is a "fresh spin" on Nietzsche is kind of hilarious — as if she were the first to appropriate that quote! — but otherwise, it's true: Stronger is an album of kiss-off songs to antagonist boys in the vein of some of her greatest hits. The problem with that? It depends on whether or not you believe that Kelly Clarkson's lyrics are becoming too predictable or, perhaps worse than that, too simplistic in her notions of empowerment. The songs themselves are instantly pleasurable, and some of her best yet. But there's a point in every breakup conversation where one friend must tell the other that he or she needs to move on already.

START WITH: "Dark Side" / "I Forgive You"

Also out today: Matt Cardle — Letters (Sony UK), Justice — Audio Video Disco (Elektra/WEA), Björk & The Dirty Projectors — Mount Wittenberg Orca (Domino), Dntel — Life is Full Of Possibilities: Deluxe Reissue (Sub Pop)

THE DISPATCH:

Adam-levine1Road Maroon 5's Adam Levine to Fox News: "Don't play our music on your evil f*cking channel ever again." Fox News responds: "Dear Adam Levine, don't make crappy f*cking music ever again." It's just a battle where everyone loses, apparently.

Road From a Mess to the Masses, the new documentary film about Phoenix that aired on European television last week, is currently streaming online.

BrightlightRoad While Bright Light Bright Light is still prepping for the release of his debut album, he's still supporting his impeccable new single, "Disco Moment," and taking the time out to play an acoustic set for Gaydar Radio that reveals the depth of his synthpop songwriting. Check out these stripped down versions of "Love Pt. 2" or the aforementioned "Disco Moment" and discover why Rod Thomas might be a one-man Pet Shop Boys.

Road This week's essential streams and downloads? There are a lot of them: Tracy Thorn reunited with Everything But The Girl partner Ben Watt for this cover of "Night Time" — originally recorded by the xx and set to appear on an upcoming EP of the same name. The iconic R.E.M. revealed their final single ever, "We All Go Back to Where We Belong," which is set to appear on their upcoming retrospective Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011. Toronto's Diamond Rings offer up an excellent cover of Teenage Fanclub's "Mellow Doubt" for a new European single. And finally, Charli XCX — a 19-year-old London upstart whose debut single, "Stay Away," is quite likely my favorite song of 2011 so far — releases a long-awaited follow-up: "Nuclear Seasons" suggests that this girl is gunning for album of the year while she's at it.

Robbie+Williams+Gary+Barlow+Radio+1+Interview+iP_t-lXuSPblRoad Ever the cagey one, Robbie Williams has quit Take That (again) and has announced a new record deal with Universal and a new album for 2012. The departure, which went down earlier this year, was perfectly amiable as evidenced by Williams' new songwriting partner in the venture: Take That's Gary Barlow.

Road Lady Gaga isn't finished with Born This Way yet. This week, it was announced that the album will be issued in two new versions next month: Born This Way: The Remix will host studio work from Goldfrapp, Wild Beasts, Foster the People, Michael Woods, Two Door Cinema Club, Hurts, and more, while Born This Way: The Collection features the original and remix albums as well her Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden DVD.

MobyRoad According to a post on his blog, Moby will be showing up on the Craig Ferguson show with a "halloween supergroup" comprised of Magnetic Fields mainman Stephin Merritt, former Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer, author Neil Gaiman, and Moby himself. I'm as confused as you are.

Road David LaChappelle's plagiarism lawsuit over Rihanna's "S&M" video has been settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. The lawsuit, LaChappelle says, was "not personal, it's strictly business. Musicians commonly pay to sample music or use someone's beats and there should be no difference when sampling an artist's visuals."

SOUND & VISION:

FreeSol — "Role Model" (feat. Justin Timberlake)

He's still taking a break from being a pop star, but on the new album by hip-hop/rock group FreeSol, Justin Timberlake steps into the producer's chair — and takes a stab at rapping while he's at it. The result? It's somewhere between good and Saturday Night Live rap-skit — and hashtag rap is so Drake's first album! — but the band behind him is solid.

Active Child — "Playing House" (feat. How To Dress Well)

"Playing House" actually premiered last month, but it got swept up in all the fall new release business around here. So I'm righting that wrong now: Active Child's debut album, You Are All I See, is one of this year's more gorgeous records, and "Playing House" is one of its more plaintive moments — a sullen synthpop song dressed up like a heartbroken R&B opera. It's like they invented something new here, and really, I don't get to say that too often.

Stars — "Dead Hearts"

The Five Ghosts is as haunting as its title suggests, so the idea of shooting a clip for "Dead Hearts" at a funeral is an appropriate one. The trick, then, is transmitting loss without veering into literal maudlin tropes or devolving into total darkness. So it's no small feat that Stars made the most optimistic video about death you can imagine.

Olly Murs — "Dance With Me Tonight"

He lost the 2009 UK X Factor competition to Joe McElderry, but these days, Olly Murs is making #1 singles and trafficking in the kind of feel-good vintage pop-soul that Will Young used to make before he went electro. (After releasing a debut album to disappointing numbers, McElderry is, inexplicably, singing opera now.) "Dance With Me Tonight" is the ebullient second single to come from Murs' upcoming second album, In Case You Didn't Know.



Chris Martin Reveals What Made Him Think He Might Be Gay as a Teen

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At last night's ceremony for the Q Awards, Coldplay's Chris Martin says that in the 90's UK boyband Take That made him wonder if he way gay:

MartinThe Coldplay front man joked that Take That made him question his sexuality when he was growing up. Chris told the celebrity-packed audience at The Q Awards yesterday that he had two favourite bands when he was a kid, “U2 and five handsome, strapping men from Stoke and Manchester. I'm not afraid to admit it, they made me ask the question 'Am I gay?'"

Chris was at the event to not only pick up a gong for Coldplay’s Best Act In The World Today win, but to also present Gary Barlow with his award for Classic Songwriter, and the Take That star was shocked to receive his little golden Q trophy.

Watch Barlow (above, right) in an interview at last night's awards, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Chris Martin Reveals What Made Him Think He Might Be Gay as a Teen" »


Watch: The Making of Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams Brokeback-Inspired 'Shame' Video

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Take That's Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams shot a "making of" their Brokeback-inspired video for "Shame", which was released in August and is here if you missed it.

Watch the "making of" video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Watch: The Making of Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams Brokeback-Inspired 'Shame' Video" »


Watch: Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow's Brokeback Bromance Video for 'Shame'

Shame

Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow have released a Brokeback Mountain-themed video for their new duet track "Shame".

The biggest shame is the fact that there's no pup tent scene or clandestine kissing. Eh, maybe there's an uncut version out there somewhere.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Watch: Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow's Brokeback Bromance Video for 'Shame'" »


First Look: Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow Duet 'Shame'

Shame

The video is set for release early tomorrow morning. It's reportedly Brokeback Mountain-themed.

A rather unrevealing still from it, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "First Look: Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow Duet 'Shame'" »


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